Teach, donate, create—IBM volunteers in China
support education in rural area

Story of service • China • May 2013


IBM team members who supported
volunteer activities with SCO and
SJTU, including Hainan Yin (fifth from
the left), De Qiang Ren (seventh from
the left), and Qi Wei Zhang (eighth from
the left), with En Chang Zhou, China
University Relations Manager (first on
left), and Zhi Gang Zhang, SJTU
Professor and founder of SCO (fourth
from left).
Hainan Yin, a warranty program manager for IBM in China, led a team of eight IBM colleagues and volunteers in a project designed to improve education in rural areas of the country. What started as a used-book drive by IBM employees with the Siyuan Commonweal Organization (SCO) has grown into a collaboration with Shanghai Jiao Tong University (SJTU) to deliver a series of educational workshops to 400 children in the Gansu province of China, and a cloud platform solution to help track book donations and manage volunteer activity.

“My passion is to use the strongest pivot point to do social good by utilizing my background in IT,” says Hainan. “I can capitalize on my professional expertise in operations excellence and software development to build the capacity of China’s grassroots non-governmental organizations (NGO).”

Never forget where one's happiness comes from

The Siyuan Commonweal Organization is an NGO established by students at SJTU to enable education at the local level in disadvantaged areas of China. Loosely translated, “Siyuan” means to never forget where one’s happiness comes from. Or, as Hainan says, “In Chinese it literally means that ‘when drinking the water, remember the source,’ a reminder to us to always keep social responsibility in mind.”

The IBM volunteers, led by Hainan, organized employees to donate more than 1,300 books to be used in rural Gansu, located in north-central China and considered one of the poorest provinces despite recent growth there.

Since 2004 SCO has established seven libraries in four different provinces—the donated books from IBM enabled them to launch an IBM library in a primary school in Gansu.

“I am really moved by the grassroots NGO leaders’ passion for the disadvantaged groups of people,” says Hainan. “The books we donated could even change the life of rural students, widening their eyes and providing them the same equal opportunities as children in big cities.”

Shared value between business and society

While a book can certainly provide new perspective, a great teacher can inspire and motivate students. Starting in the summer of 2012, IBM volunteers worked together with students at SJTU to develop an enhanced in-person educational experience for children in Gansu schools.

Teaching-preparation workshops helped set objectives and priorities for the IBM-SJTU team, who then designed more than ten courses on the theme of engineering. Lily Yao, an IBM software engineer, volunteered to act as the program manager for event planning of the education workshops. After three months of preparation and course design, the volunteers and teachers delivered the courses to 400 students in three schools in Gansu.

The materials used in the volunteer teaching solutions, including IBM Activity Kits from On Demand Community, will aid future youth education programs in all rural areas of China. “Many of the IBM volunteers, including me, graduated from SJTU,” says Hainan. “We feel extremely fulfilled to work with fellow students, coach them to develop themselves, and make a positive impact on society.”

Assisting in one area often reveals gaps in another. Hainan notes, “When we co-organized the donation of books, we noticed that SCO had a very tedious manual process to manage donation tracking and library management.”

Today, thanks to Hainan and other IBM volunteers, SCO is piloting an IBM cloud solution called the Siyuan Philanthropic Cloud Platform that is projected to provide significant efficiency and savings. The platform will manage 58,000 books in seven towns for 8,000 rural students, and reduce the operation time of book donations and library management by as much as 90%—showcasing how cloud computing can streamline operations management for communities, business, schools and government.

As a portal, the platform will help SCO and other NGOs in east China more directly engage those who support their activities—giving donors greater confidence about how resources are being applied. It is expected to support 20 grassroots organizations, enabling more than 5,000 volunteers to participate in 170 activities per month.

“We need to leverage our wisdom, understanding the interests of different parties, and integrate resources to make things happen,” says Hainan. “I want to help IBM create shared value between business and society. To me, helping others is to help myself grow.”

Hainan Yin and his fellow volunteers working with SCO and SJTU are winners of the 2012 IBM Volunteer Excellence Award which recognizes IBM employees and teams who best exemplify the IBM values of dedication, innovation and trust through their volunteer efforts.

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